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Nov 1, 2017

Findings on Won Hong Kim

The infamous Won Hong Kim affair, while not the start of the Immigration Department’s troubles, certainly exacerbated them. After its discovery multiple investigations were triggered, including the one that led Minister Godwin Hulse to today’s Senate meeting.  While there was limited discussion of the circumstances surrounding how Kim obtained a passport and Belizean nationality without ever having set foot in Belize, Hulse issued a summary of the ministry’s findings.  In his opening statement, he detailed some of the names, not previously mentioned, who assisted Elvin Penner’s deception, and the abortive attempt in front of the Public Service Commission to punish others who were responsible.

 

Godwin Hulse

Godwin Hulse, Minister of Immigration and Nationality

“On September sixteenth, 2013, at three-thirty p.m., Miss Diana Locke, director of international services at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, approached me with a report from the Belize Embassy in Taiwan, alleging that a person by the name of Won Hong Kim, a [South] Korean national, had been detained in Taiwan since August second, 2013. This person had allegedly obtained Belizean nationality certificate number two-eight-five-seven-seven-slash thirteen, dated the twenty-second of April, 2013. Subsequently this person, on September ninth, 2013, obtained a Belizean passport number P-zero-two-four-six-seven-seven; however this person was detained in Taiwan during this time. Our investigation showed that the data capture process was done in Belmopan on September the ninth, 2013, as an expedited request, and the relevant fee of two hundred and fifty dollars plus stamp was paid. One Mr. Jose Cante collected the passport later that day. The recommenders for the passport were Mr. Alfonso Cruz, Junior, justice of the peace, Category A, and Minister Penner as member of the House of Representatives, Category B. Investigations carried out by the Ministry and the Department showed that Mr. Won Hong Kim was not in country at the time of issuance of this passport, and that the transaction was doctored to represent a valid data capture process. It was clear that other persons in the Immigration Department were part of the plan to accomplish this, since the system involves the signature of several persons at different stages of the process. My recommendation to the Prime Minister and Cabinet was that the Minister of State with responsibility for Immigration, the Honorable Minister Penner, be removed forthwith from the post; and that officers within the Department suspected of having colluded in this transaction be forthwith suspended from duty pending further investigation. This was done. During the following weeks the Ministry conducted an investigation, led by the Acting Director and C.E.O. in the Ministry into all activities of the Department. At the time, the Police Department was engaged also in investigating certain issues relevant to the case of Won Hong Kim, and other files which had surfaced in the media. Upon completion of this exercise, it was determined that certain officers should be brought before the Public Service Commission for disciplinary action, under Section 106 (1) of the Constitution, which gives the Commission such powers to exercise disciplinary control – this was particularly in respect of the Won Hong Kim case. I was initially named as a witness in this case, and so summoned to attend on Tuesday, February eleventh, 2014, by letter of the Commission dated January thirty-first, 2014. Subsequently, by memorandum dated the seventh of February, addressed to the C.E.O. in the Ministry from the secretary to the Public Service Commission, the summons was withdrawn. “Be informed that the Public Service Commission does not consider it prudent to have the Honorable Godwin Hulse, Minister of Labor, etcetera, appear before it as a witness at the hearing; the Commission therefore excuses the Honorable Godwin Hulse from appearing as a witness in this case.” The Commission subsequently returned the parties to their active positions. Other cases to be brought before the Commission in respect of this case met with similar difficulty.”

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